Group of teenagers sitting in the classroom with raised hands.Last week, we asked, “What’s your favorite first day of school activity?” Here are eight great ideas to break the ice, get students to warm up to one another, and establish rapport on the first day of school.

Carol VanHook uses Stand Up, Sit Down! to get to know her students

  1. If you have a dog, stand up.
  2. If someone other than you took the dog out to the bathroom this morning, sit down.
  3. If you have a cat, stand up.
  4. If someone, other than you, fed the dog or cat sit down.
  5. If you are an only child, stand up.
  6. If you are the youngest child in the family, sit down.
  7. If you are going to take a trip this coming Labor Day weekend, stand up.
  8. If you stayed up, past 11:00 last night, sit down.
  9. If you have received an A on an assignment during these past eight days of school, stand up.
  10. If you did not eat a good healthy breakfast….lots of milk product, cereal, fiber and fruits, sit down!
  11. If you helped a neighbor this summer, stand up.
  12. If you received a kiss or a hug, this morning from someone, sit down.

Directions: Stand if the item applies to you. Keep standing through the next item, unless it directs you to sit down. Hopefully, you will have many students standing when you get to #12. Very few will sit down on #12! Give these students a candy kiss or hug and say, “Everyone deserves a kiss (hug)!” — This leads to further discussions about pets, helping others, healthy eating and habits, traveling, etc. after the activity.

Cathy Beach uses Marble Maze: Small group challenge

Using only the materials provided (empty cereal/kleenex/duotang boxes, 3 large index cards, 1 empty toilet roll tube, pair scissors/person, 1.5 metre masking tape, and 1 marble, construct a maze so that your marble drops from a minimum height of 30 cm (12 inches) to the ground/surface in the longest amount of time possible. Minimum time must be greater than 3 seconds.

Christen Dodd gets them connected

I say get kids excited about being connected learners right away I would do two activities to get them excited about the possibilities:

Introduce Skype and share the intro to “Skype in the Classroom” video with students

During the first day of school, have students add a tweet to the class account & share what they are most excited to learn or desire to learn this upcoming year. Then encourage parents and other educators to send tweets back to the class throughout the day.

Marsha Ratzel uses a quiz

I’m going to do a “quiz” titled Mrs. Ratzel by the Numbers. So students will have to see how well they know me…and learn about me through my 9 or 10 questions. I wrote about this on my blog.

Then we’ll turn it around and I’ll ask them to write _____ by the Numbers where they tell me the most important 5 numbers in their life and why.

Since I wrote the post, I’ve had several comments and Tweets which have led me to figure out a couple more things to make this even better. I can use their _______ by the Numbers as a dry-run for blogging on Edmodo. Other students can read and comment(with a post-it). This way we’ll get a chance to talk about high quality commenting and doing some paper blogging. Also when we’re done with that, I can use all of these for my bulletin board.

With 140+ ________by the Numbers, every student will have something up in the room that represents them and I can continue to look at those to get to know them better and better. Plus I think they’ll like that it’s their faces they see.

Michelle Fenn uses art to get students excited

I do a cooperative artwork project. I give each group of about 4 or 5 kids a huge circle shaped piece of paper (cut out of the big white mural paper).

  1. They have to divide the circle using different kinds of line but the parts must all be connected somehow and have balance. The parts must all be bigger than their hand.
  2. They then paint (tempera) in the shapes keeping in mind that the painting needs balance of colour and they have to work together to get that done-move around the circle.
  3. Once the tempera is dry they take black acrylic paint and outline the spaces in the circle.
  4. They come up with a group name for their paintings and a good reason for the name.
  5. As a group they present their painting, discuss what worked well and what they like most about the painting and the process.

**these paintings easily cover two bulletin boards and are very impressive for fall open houses!

Jane Cooper uses sculpture

I give each student their own container of play dough. They sculpt whatever they wish, and then I have them write about and illustrate their creation, They then give their creation to their neighbor, who will blog about their partner’s creation. Of course, the original artist responds to the post where the. buddy digitally described their creation on the blug.

Patti Grayson gets them going with Voki

This year, I’m going to have students create a Voki with facts about themselves they would like to share. We’ll project them on my whiteboard and try to guess who is who!

This gives even my shy students a chance to create something and share without feeling all eyes are on them. It also gives us a chance to do something fun with our netbooks, and will lead into my chat about using them in the classroom. :)

Denise Weintraut uses a seating activity

This year, I’m planning to start off with the cooperative seating activity discussed in the blog by Sandy Merz. Once students are seated, they’ll write me a letter about their hopes and dreams, favorite/hated books, and past learning experiences. Then, I’ll work in a bit of character education and have them express themselves via bulletin board graffiti. They’ll answer how they want to be treated by others, how they want to treat others, and how they want to resolve conflicts. We’ll use this info. as a springboard for classroom rules. Plus, it puts student work on display for back-to-school night.

These activities will allow students to work collaboratively, offer personal expression, and demonstrate to me how they’ll function in the class.

Thank you to all the educators who submitted their ideas!

If you have a favorite first day of school activity, leave it in the comments!

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Sheryl is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Powerful Learning Practice. She works with schools and districts from around the world helping them to infuse technology into their curriculums and by leading other digital conversion efforts. Sheryl also consults with governments, educational organizations and non-profits in development of their various professional learning initiatives. Sheryl is a sought-after presenter at national and international events, speaking on topics related to digital and online learning, teacher and educational leadership, online community building, and other educational issues impacting children of poverty. Sheryl served on the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Board of Directors for six years. She co-authored The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age with Lani Ritter Hall. Sheryl has four children and four grandsons, Luke, Logan, Levi and Tanner and a trio of dachshunds. You can find out more on her blog and on Twitter @snbeach.

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